David Lees, John Green and Stan Ainsley - 'walking the walk' for Henley RBL Poppy appeal
On July 18-21 this year, along with 2 colleagues from the Henley branch of the Royal British Legion, I took part in the Nijmegen marches in the Netherlands. Nijmegen is the largest walking event in the world, with 50,000 military and civilian personnel taking part, and last year was the centenary. We were to walk 40 kilometres (25 miles) a day for 4 consecutive days, raising money for the Henley Poppy Appeal.
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"It is a fascinating, exhausting and at times surreal experience. We had elected to walk 40 km each day, though 30km and 50km options are available. The walkers doing 40km start each morning at either 5 am or 6 am (in which case the alarm does not need to be set till 4.30 am!!). You may imagine the centre of Nijmegen would be quiet at that time, but you are seen off by hordes of drunk students who have been up (drinking) all night. You then wend your way through the suburbs and into the country and through the various local villages and towns. Throughout the walk, all the locals are out giving support, offering drinks, snacks, fruit, sweets etc, with masses of local bands, rock DJ’s and Karaoke(yes, at 6 am!). I don’t ever want to ‘high five’ another child in my life…………..
The walkers themselves are a mix of civilians in small groups as we were, and military groups marching in time. The final day is even more manic, with the last 10 km walking North up a dead straight road which ends with the Via Gladioli where people (again, many drunk), stand 3 deep, dancing and singing and handing out gladioli to ‘deserving’ recipients. ..........David's story continued on next page